Post Content

wordsoflaw-300x100

 

Words of law is a regular feature of Massachusetts Law Updates, highlighting a particular word or phrase and its meaning in law.

Today’s phrase is search warrant.

search warrant, n. (18c) Criminal law. A judge’s written order authorizing a law-enforcement officer to conduct a search of a specified place and to seize evidence. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 41.

 –  Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th ed., Bryan A. Garner, Editor in Chief, Thomson Reuters, 2014.

Massachusetts law addresses the issuance of a search warrant for documentary evidence in the possession of an attorney.

M.G.L. c. 276, § 1, forbids issuance of a search warrant for documentary evidence in the possession of a lawyer, psychotherapist, or clergyman who is reasonably believed to maintain a privileged relationship with a criminal suspect unless there is probable cause to believe that the evidence will be otherwise destroyed, concealed, or lost . . . Evidence entrusted to a lawyer that is not itself privileged (or contains privileged information), and for which there is probable cause to believe constitutes evidence of a crime under investigation, is not beyond the reach of an anticipatory warrant issued pursuant to M.G.L. c. 276, § 1Commonwealth v. Hernandez,   475 Mass. 267, 277 (2016) (defendant’s cell phone containing messages linking him to the shooting of a witness). See also Matter of a Grand Jury Investigation470 Mass. 399, 420 (2015) (concurring opinion suggesting a protocol for the seizure by way of a search warrant of unprivileged evidence held by an attorney on behalf of a client). Compare In re Search Warrant, 521 A.2d 422, 428 (Pa. 1987) (“There are no privileged isles beyond the reaches of a properly predicated search warrant”). The statute does not restrict searches of lawyers who are themselves targets of criminal investigation. Cf. In re Impounded Case (Law Firm), 840 F.2d 196, 200 (3d Cir. 1988) (searches of law offices are not per se unreasonable); United States v. Mittelman, 999 F.2d 440, 445 (9th Cir. 1993) (same). ”

“Searches with Warrants: Third Party Searches”, Richard G. Stearns, Massachusetts Criminal Law: A Prosecutors Guide, Online Edition, 2018.

In Federal cases, United States Attorneys also exercise close control over searches of premises of attorneys in order to balance respect for attorney-client relationships with the need for law enforcement to gather evidence of a crime. Their procedure for “Searches of Premises of Subject Attorneys” is detailed in the U.S. Attorney’s Manual.

Written By:

Recent Posts

Legal research: print or online? posted on Sep 27

When doing legal research, is it easier to use online sources or books?  Which produces better results?  Can you even do it all online, if you want to? As part of the answer to this, the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries have a web page   …Continue Reading Legal research: print or online?

New Regulations for Community Health Workers in Massachusetts posted on Sep 19

Regulations for community health care workers in Massachusetts were recently released in Massachusetts Register #1368 and codified in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations at 272 CMR 1-9.   The regulations ” govern the certification and practice of Certified Community Health Workers in Massachusetts by establishing the scope of practice and standards   …Continue Reading New Regulations for Community Health Workers in Massachusetts

Celebrating Constitution Day posted on Sep 17

Celebrating Constitution Day

The Centinel – February 9, 1788 Announcing the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in Massachusetts September 17 is designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787, and to  “recognize all who, by   …Continue Reading Celebrating Constitution Day